Friday, March 14, 2008

A Road to Damascus moment

Longtime playwright David Mamet, and one of my favorite screenwriters, admits to a recent conversion.
I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.
My favorite part:
I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.
Be still my heart.


Rob said...

Isn't part of the problem here that the version of liberalism Mamet says he used to hold is pretty withered and weak version? He took at as "an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart." That is, uh, not quite the way I understand the world, and it's not really my definition of "liberal."

Saxdrop said...

Is it really that far off? None of those three conjectures, taken in the abstract, seem unreasonable. I wouldn't reject them out of hand myself.

But fair enough. Hence the "brain -dead" liberal application?

the cold cowboy said...

i would agree and expand on rob's point - i certainly don't begrudge the man his 'enlightenment', but i'm not it can be generalized due to its reliance on what his idea of what being a liberal means... and his idea of it is so shallow and naive it's no wonder he's rejected it.

take just one of his the premise of his play - that one must choose between "socialist" tendencies and "free-market" ones. the dichotomy is not useful at all, and ignores the real differences between (political) liberals and conservatives on the issue of government intervention. i certainly favor free market solutions just as the next Friedman, where they exist.

I just happen to think that the often don't, that market failure exists, and that externalities and public goods often require intervention to internalize real costs.

I'd also add that the "free-market" label is too often affixed to phenomena that are the antithesis of "free-market" -- for instance, the bulk of low-density urban sprawl, which is in large part a direct result of low-density zoning, not "the market". but who needs nuance?

i would join him in decrying the knee-jerk brand of liberalism to which he once belonged. unfortunate, don't you think, that in the mickey-mouse world of political extremes he has conjured up, his only choice is going headlong in the opposite direction?